Meet Erica Rankin, Founder & CEO at Bro Dough.
Erica launched Bro Dough in December 2019. With a background in personal training and a passion for ‘healthifying’ typically unhealthy dishes and desserts, Erica felt that she was the best-placed person to create the one food yet to enter the Canadian market – protein-filled, vegan, macro-friendly cookie dough!
Erica did her homework, and after completing a series of business workshops, covering topics such as cash flow projections, marketing a business, creating a business plan, and so on, it was time to get the word out about the product and “what better tool to use than social media?”
She started by posting on Instagram, then she ran paid ads, created some great giveaways, and even targeted some major influencers. However, after one month, she had only managed to achieve 300 dollars in sales.
What was going wrong?
The influencers were receiving the products but seemed to delay posting on their platforms about it. Moreover, some of them were asking for payment in addition to receiving their free product, which for a bootstrapped startup, wasn’t doable.
So Erica changed up her tactics. She studied her analytics and saw that her ads and giveaways brought the most traction to the Bro Dough website and focused on this method. When it came to the influencers, she decided to double down and only target micro-influencers with highly engaged audiences and “healthy food” bloggers across Canada. These are her people and those who understand the need for protein-filled, vegan, macro-friendly cookie dough and hopefully promote Bro Dough. This move led her to a significant increase in sales, wherein 71% of traffic to the Bro Dough site was coming from Instagram.
"When it came to the influencers, she decided to double down and only target micro-influencers with highly engaged audiences and “healthy food” bloggers across Canada."
After a few months of using Instagram, Erica hit a point where sales were stalling. Over coffee with a friend and after she explained the roadblock she had hit, he suggested she try LinkedIn.
Bro Dough currently only ships to Canada, and Erica wondered whether LinkedIn was the right tool. Some research quickly told her that 27.1% of all Internet users in Canada use LinkedIn each month and that 44% of all Internet users in Canada have an account on this social platform. Moreover her target customer ranged from ages 16-33 and 59.9% of LinkedIn’s users are between the ages of 25 and 34 years old.
"Some research quickly told her that 27.1% of all Internet users in Canada use LinkedIn each month and that 44% of all Internet users in Canada have an account on this social platform."
A suggestion is a suggestion, so Summer2020, Erica opened her LinkedIn account – she had 12 connections. Focusing her efforts on looking up some of the most successful players in the food industry, she quickly connected with Tara Bosch, who founded Smart Sweets, then she went through everyone Tara was connected to and decided who would and wouldn’t be relevant for Bro Dough.
She also looked at what people with a large following were doing on the platform. She quickly realized that with LinkedIn, people buy from people, and brand transparency would receive the most traction. So she began to use LinkedIn to reveal the highs and lows of running the business; slowly, she began to get traction.
The platform allowed her to connect with like-minded individuals and see the struggles that other founders were going through. She also met her growth partner and sales consultant on the platform. She has recently found that prominent CPG founders are reaching out to her and offering guidance with running the business, ultimately preventing her from making the same mistakes they had.
"The platform allowed her to connect with like-minded individuals, to see the struggles that other founders were going through."
As of April 2021, she now has 10,000 connections on the platform and considers this one of her most robust brand tools.
So with Instagram and LinkedIn slowly building the brand, Erica was keen to take on TikTok and Clubhouse.
She saw instant success with Clubhouse but found Tik Tok a little trickier, but Erica persisted, and just last month, after posting regularly, one of her videos took off, and she woke up to nearly 300,000 views of the video and a sold-out inventory!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The more you ask, the more you know and the more likely you are not to make mistakes.
“Initially, I decided not to purchase a fridge for the products and store the product in my car – Canada is famous for its extremely cold climate in the winter, and so I figured it would work, and it did for a while….. Then came spring, and I continued to store the product in the car. Each container was individually bubble wrapped, and I thought, protected from the sun. I received my largest wholesale order and sent over the items. The wholesalers shipped it directly to the customer, and I suddenly started to receive pictures of hairy Bro Dough, which obviously, hadn’t been so sun-protected after all! Mortified, I decided to write a personal handwritten note to each person who had received the moldy dough. Thankfully the client forgave me and today is my largest wholesale customer."
Two lessons learnt from this: